By the time I entered kindergarten, I had learned everything I needed to know about how to improve an online business reputation. Although I didn't realize it at the time, my mom, Karen Lacerte had taught me how to earn great online product reviews and how to get social media love for my company.
She taught me to be myself, say thank you, ask for help when I need it, and be consistent with my studies. Mom taught me to respect the world around me in everything I do and let me know when I wasn't.
Thanks to the lessons I learned from mom, my business, Bill.com, now generates more than half of our sales from customer referrals. It consistently gets online product review scores showing 5/5 stars, and it has some of the highest customer satisfaction scores in the industry.
Here are five things you can do to improve the online reputation of both you and your company.
1. Say thank you.
Amber Aslanian, the Bill.com director of customer service, thanks customers and staff all the time. While this seems like common sense, some organizations develop a cold or distant relationship with their customers and may even script responses or have strict guidelines on what types of conversations they can have.
While there are many ways to say thanks, I've found that a handwritten note makes an impact. To engage more of our staff in really feeling the importance of our customers and our genuine appreciation, we gather our staff together in a big conference room, supply them with lunch and beverages, and then hold a mini customer gratitude party as everyone pitches in to write notes. It's fun and communicates to everyone in our company the importance of customer appreciation.
I also make sure managers are empowered to use their own judgement to find creative ways to help customers that experienced a tough problem with the company or product. In these situations I encourage them to send a card, or a care package of sorts to the person. We don't do this often but it is the right thing to do and it always makes everyone feel better.
2. Be yourself.
Let staff be themselves and bring their own unique personalities into the customer service process.
Every day, I see the positive results of this approach. Believe it or not, our customers are vocal about their appreciation of our staff and their unique personalities on social media and in surveys.
Bailey Robinson @baileyrobinson
@billcom Your customer service is amazing! Had a blast with Gina + got the answers I need. Love that you let your employees be who they are.
Connie: "Bill.com chat support always delights me. They create an environment where I feel supported and connected...Thank you Bill.com for a great experience."
Tom: "Talking to a human is so much better than sifting through FAQs. Thanks for providing human beings to help us through things."
Cheryl Fellows @cheryl303
Thanks for great customer service at @Billcom today! perfect response, had done homework, quickly resolved.
How our staff deals with customers on a personal level is critical to the customer experience. Our team is educated on Bill.com company values: Humble, Fun, Authentic, Passionate, Dedicated. Within the broad framework of our values, our staff do their job by sticking to their own personalities. There's no superfluous corporate fluff, which often creates distance. They are trusted and empowered to make their own decisions and relate to customers on a personal level.
One easy tip that you can implement today is to ask customers how their day is going. This shows that you're interested in the customer as a person, not just trying to keep the call as efficient as possible.
Having fun at work with an authentic attitude is the "right attitude." Sometimes when you ask this question you hear about some pretty tough stuff. To avoid becoming jaded, I suggest impromptu group games during lunch or breaks. This exposes the human side of people and fosters the development of empathy with customers. In our office, foosball is a popular activity during breaks. The team can do it together and there's something satisfying about booting a ball into a goal.
3. Develop a report card, review it with people, and track it over time.
What doesn't get measured doesn't get done. Period. So, we survey customers after each interaction. We also perform regular internal quality assessments of recorded phone calls and chat and email transcripts. We measure consistency, customer satisfaction, accuracy, friendliness, tone, empathy and speed of customer service. We report on all of these across the company on a monthly basis.
Based on the criteria, each employee gets a score that is reviewed with their manager at least once a month and compared to goals. Employees look forward to these meetings as they provide a great improvement tool. The scores are also shared with the entire team. The entire staff loves reading the comments from customers. We highlight employees with exceptional scores sending them a special gift and note from the management team.
We also measure overall performance of the customer service group. Statistics are displayed on large TV screens mounted to the wall and displayed throughout the office. This instills pride in our staff and is a positive motivator to show the entire company that we're doing a great job serving our customers. Teams like to have clear goals. Being transparent and distributing results is great way to share what could be improved and what is going well. Tracking results over time, especially with a graph, shows progress and continues to motivate the team. One of the things that we graph over time is customer satisfaction.
4. Ask for help.
We rely on our customers for feedback on our product, service, and support. They're helping us build a better product and company. In return, we try to put their ideas into the product, many of these ideas are features that directly benefit their business. We also survey our customers and ask for other ways that we can help their business. The number one request is for Bill.com to help customers gain visibility for their business. To shine a spotlight on our customers, we work with them on case studies, customer testimonials, blog posts, and speaking engagements. To make it easier to for customers to connect with us, we've built a community, Bill.com Insiders, where customers can connect with other users and Bill.com executives. The community helps them learn best practices, enables them to give us advice on the product, and learn more about industry trends. Asking for help can be a strong basis to increase trust if the customer relationship is authentic.
An example on how we successfully ask for help is engaging with customers for product beta programs. The participants are found both in the online support community and from recommendations from the customer service team. Customers who asked for a feature are often asked to help test that feature. As a way of saying thanks, we send them gift cards for beta participation and usability testing. Amber is also building a customer advocacy group for select customers to engage with us and with each other on a deeper level, including product feedback and in-person meetings with executives.
5. Be consistent.
Our customer service staff must undergo two full weeks of training before they begin working with customers. The training includes online modules, instructor-led sessions and shadowing other support team members. The initial training is supplemented with ongoing weekly meetings and a set block of time each week for training and professional development. At the end of each weekly development session, each staff member reports on what they learned. In order to ensure that our answers are accurate and consistent, Amber works with the team to update a centralized knowledge base. By centralizing answers and making them easy to find, we improve both our accuracy and speed.
A tip that will help establish consistency is to exclusively promote managers up from customer service representatives. At Bill.com, all of our customer service managers were originally service representatives with direct, daily contact with customers.
As a business leader, your ultimate responsibility is to grow the business. Your customers are your number one asset when they are happy. The key to happy customers lies with the simple lessons that we all learned from our moms. If you follow these tips, you will feel like a kid again and walk into your office every day with a smile on your face and have great reviews to boot (5/5 on the Intuit App Center for Bill.com).